Friday, March 02, 2007

Gray Week On Wall Street

Last week, I walked down Wall Street, thinking of the shades of gray of those buildings, always in shadow, it seems, and capped off, at the end of Wall at Broadway, by the faintly rose-colored specter of the Trinity Church and the black shadows and stains of its grave stones. An old relic of Christianity's ghosts, now dominated by the relatively fortified, cold, security-cammed, big steel and granite walls of Capitalism, which house the nervous center of the National Barometer.

One of my first posts to "A Better Nation" (see ABN, Nov. 2004) posed Alan Greenspan as the rudderman of our index-driven Titanic. Now the old rudderman is back, uttering the R word, and the Barometer takes a tumble. The man's still got Diety Power in this news cycle. Some of the awe "themarkets" hold for Greenspan comes from the plodding, wise old man tone of his declarative obfuscations. He's telling us how it is, but not straight. Not usually straight, that is. He's a master of predicting the future on the authorative sly.

And so anxious watchers look for certain key words they fear or think they understand, whether taken in or out of context. And so, this week, the R word came up, and there it was, taken out of context, for all to see, and God Greenspan ruled the day others now rue. Is it Greenspan's or the Fed Chairman's job, in rote and consistent tones, to always and forever "calm the markets?" These are bustling and risk-taking institutions, not prone to calm, even on a good day. Is this the kind of easily impressionable economic system we really want? It's not a system, it's a high stakes game show. It's sometimes as theatrical as what happens a few miles up Broadway, full of sound and fury, signifying more bluster than business sense, showing how emotional and mercurial and vulnerable we are, all based on a leap of personified faith, a la the older, now marginalized gods hiding behind the darkly stained church. The myth: that "healthy rates of growth," American style, are healthy. The bigger myth: that we can grow for a limitless string of quarters, that we can grow forever, live forever.

"Recession." He, the Market Diety Emeritus, uttered the word, and immediately, the neurotic markets fumbled the ball. Which should remind us all of one thing: that these markets and this thing called capitalism are neurotic games and gambling matches. The players, both in blue aprons standing outside on Wall Street sucking on their cigarettes and all across the land, placing their bets in their pajamas or talking to Chuck or riding the bulls and the bears at big firms a la Lynch, are not the backbone of our society. They're just fitful, forgetful, faithful, greedy, Type A anxious gamblers and get-aheaders. And the nation they let ride on their roller coaster is just a big casino in the sky called the American House of Cards Casino, open to juggle the coins of the realm 9 AM to 4 PM Eastern Standard Time.

As with other measures of cancerous growth and recession, such as housing starts and the price of a gazillion gallons of gasoline, the markets seem a flimsy and flighty and absolutely neurotic way to gauge the genuine "health" of anything.


Post a Comment

<< Home